Google denies altering YouTube code to slow down Microsoft Edge

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A former Microsoft intern has recently revealed details of a YouTube incident that has convinced some Edge browser engineers that Google added code to purposely break compatibility.

In a post on Hacker News, Joshua Bakita, a former software engineering intern at Microsoft lays out details and claims about an incident earlier this year. Microsoft has since announced the company is moving from the EdgeHTML rendering engine to the open source Chromium project for its Edge browser.

Bakita said that “one of the reasons we (Microsoft) decided to end EdgeHTML was because Google kept making changes to its sites that broke other browsers, and we couldn’t keep up.”

Bakita said that Google added a “hidden empty div over YouTube videos” that affected Microsoft’s hardware acceleration for videos. “Prior to that, our fairly state-of-the-art video acceleration put us well ahead of Chrome on video playback time on battery, but almost the instant they broke things on YouTube, they started advertising Chrome’s dominance over Edge on video-watching battery life.”

Microsoft decided to end EdgeHTML was because Google kept making changes to its sites that broke other browsers, and we couldn’t keep up.” Bakita claims that Google added a “hidden empty div over YouTube videos” that affected Microsoft’s hardware acceleration for videos. “Prior to that, our fairly state-of-the-art video acceleration put us well ahead of Chrome on video playback time on battery, but almost the instant they broke things on YouTube, they started advertising Chrome’s dominance over Edge on video-watching battery life.”

Now the claims are quite a thing if they are true, and they come months after a Mozilla program manager claimed a separate YouTube redesign made the site “5x slower in Firefox and Edge.” That incident led Edge, Safari, and Firefox users to revert to scripts to improve the YouTube experience. Google was also at the center of claims it intentionally blocked access to Google Maps for Windows Phone users years ago.

“Now while I’m not sure I’m convinced that YouTube was changed intentionally to slow Edge, many of my co-workers are quite convinced,” says Bakita in his post on the empty element issue. “To add to this all, when we asked, YouTube turned down our request to remove the hidden empty div and did not elaborate further.”

Google responded to Bakita’s claims, saying the YouTube blank div was merely a bug that was fixed after it was reported. “YouTube does not add code designed to defeat optimizations in other browsers, and works quickly to fix bugs when they’re discovered,” says a YouTube spokesperson in a statement. “We regularly engage with other browser vendors through standards bodies, the Web Platform Tests project, the open-source Chromium project and more to improve browser interoperability.”

Now Microsoft hasn’t confirmed anything about the specific claims made by a former intern, while the company has said that: “Google has been a helpful partner and we look forward to the journey as we work on the future of Microsoft Edge.”

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